John Frusciante Explains How Original Red Hot Chili Peppers Guitarist Hillel Slovak Influenced Him, Says First Year With Band Was ‘a Struggle’

Even though John Frusciante is one of the first (if not THE first) people that you think of at the mention of Red Hot Chili Peppers, there have been other important guitar players in the band. And they all had an important impact on the band’s style, although many of them “filled in” for Frusciante. However, there were technically three guitar players before he joined – Hillel Slovak, Jack Sherman, and DeWayne McKnight.

Slovak takes an important place in the RHCP history, and John recently explained the impact that Hillel had on his works. While chatting with Guitar World (via Music Radar), he explained that he’s “very lucky to have replaced such a great stylist,” also adding:

“The challenge of attempting to appeal to his audience was character-building, and even when my own style appeared, I was still using his style as the basis for what I did.”

“And luckily for me, there was some strange confluence of souls, where the more I stayed within the parameters laid out by Hillel, the more I sounded like myself.” 

“I wanted to make the band sound good, and I stopped caring about how I might come across. I became content to back up the other guys in the band and, unexpectedly, that made me stand out more, rather than less.”

“To this day I see Hillel’s style as the center of my own, where the band is concerned. He was a team player, and he added color and meaning to his bandmates’ contributions, and that’s what I try to do.”

During the interview, he also discussed the hardships of his early days in the band. The main challenge was to fit in with this new group of musicians that he was in, as well as to connect with the fanbase, something that RHCP had already built before he came to the fold. Frusciante said:

“The first year or so that I was in the band was definitely a struggle… I’ve got something to say that I think could probably be good for guitar players. I think that at the beginning of my time in the band, I had my mind too much on trying to impress people, and I wasn’t trusting myself enough.”

“I was feeling all these things — ‘I want to be unique,’ ‘I want to show off,’ ‘I want to stand out’ — and everything I was doing felt forced. I didn’t feel free and I didn’t feel like I was saying anything that I wanted to say. I didn’t feel like I was going deep in myself.”

“I decided I was just going to use my guitar to try to support the other people in my band. So I simplified what I was doing. And at the same time, I was also putting a hundred times the amount of personal expression and soul into it than I had before.”

Red Hot Chili Peppers are now promoting their recently released album “Unlimited Love.” Produced by Rick Rubin, it marks Frusciante’s first record with the band since 2006’s “Stadium Arcadium.” You can check out its lead single “Black Summer” below.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Black Summer (Official Music Video)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.